China’s HiPhi Z looks to carve its own niche in a competitive EV market (Feature)

Credit: HiPhi

Only the remarkable survive in China’s hyper-competitive electric vehicle sector. Amidst the price war initiated by players like Tesla, analysts have stated that some of the country’s automakers may not survive. HiPhi, a young company that has made some waves in China’s premium segment, intends to be one of the country’s prime carmakers, even after the price war. 

It is then pertinent for HiPhi to ensure that its second flagship, the Z, is compelling enough that potential buyers would consider it over more established rivals. This is easier said than done. In the United States, one can see that the number of all-electric cars is steadily increasing. This situation is more pronounced in China, with 155 new battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles set to be unveiled this year alone. 

Credit: HiPhi

HiPhi is headquartered in Shanghai, and the company launched in 2019 with the HiPhi X, an SUV. The X was quite successful, with the China Automotive Technology & Research Center noting that the all-electric SUV was one of the country’s best-selling premium EVs in 2021. The HiPhi Z is the company’s second vehicle, and it comes in the form of a shooting brake that’s available in both four-seat and five-seat configurations. 

The Z is a pretty eye-catching car, with its aggressive lines and unashamedly futuristic exterior. But apart from its looks, it also has some bite. It features a total system power of 494 kW and 820 Nm of torque. The vehicle has an official 0-100km/h acceleration time of 3.8 seconds, which may seem underwhelming compared to some popular electric cars like the Model 3 Performance and Model S Plaid. But as per a longtime Tesla owner, the Z has some characteristics that warrant a serious look nonetheless. 

Credit: HiPhi

Jason Man (known in the online electric vehicle community as Jay in Shanghai), has not only experienced Tesla’s lineup of electric cars. Being a longtime EV advocate, he has also tried out domestic electric vehicles like the NIO ET7, NIO ET5, and the ZEEKR 001. And in a conversation with Teslarati, he remarked that the HiPhi Z still stood out somewhat. It may not be as brutally quick as Tesla’s fastest cars, but it does offer something substantial to those who choose to get behind the wheel of the vehicle. 

Jay was fortunate enough to take the Z around the track during the HiPhi Z Track Experience at Goldenport International Circuit in Beijing. Initially, attendees of the event were driven around the track by a professional driver, but they were also given the chance to take the Z around the track for a spin. HiPhi noted that it was still developing a dedicated Track Mode for the Z, but even as is, it was already quite capable around the track. 

Credit: HiPhi

The longtime Tesla owner told Teslarati that the Z handled very well during its entire track run. It hugged the corners well, and it was surprisingly nimble despite its large size. Surprisingly enough, the Z was actually comfortable even at high speeds. Its ride was not harsh and NVH was also good. 

“I was shocked at how well this car handles on the track. Even at the high speed section on the track, I felt fully in control of the car. It was very confident around the corners. I felt that the wider rear tires and active rear-wheel steering helped a lot with the handling, giving me excellent grip when cornering. This gave me the confidence to push the car to the limit,” the longtime EV owner said. 

Credit: HiPhi

HiPhi has so far sold over 1,000 units of the Z this year, which is quite impressive considering that the vehicle itself sells for a premium at 610,000 yuan ($88,690). This hints that little by little, the company is establishing a presence in the Chinese market. 

And just like leaders such as Tesla, it is only just getting its stride. As per the company in a comment to Teslarati, HiPhi’s next project is its most ambitious project yet: a five-seat family SUV called the HiPhi Y. That vehicle is poised to be more affordable, but the EV maker would have to dig deep to compete in that segment. China’s premium SUV segment, after all, is already home to another “Y” — the Tesla Model Y, which is one of the country’s best-selling premium SUVs

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Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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